The No. 9 Syracuse Orange look to recover from their first loss of the season on Saturday as they welcome the Alcorn State Braves to the Carrier Dome for a non-conference tilt as part of the Gotham Classic.
The Braves' terrible slump continued on Thursday as they were defeated, 87-74, at Canisius which extended their current losing streak to eight games in a row. Alcorn State owns a dismal 2-12 record with an overtime victory over Samford (69-65) serving as the only triumph over a Division I foe. Coach Luther Riley's team is winless in eight road games this season and suffered a lopsided, 91-54, loss to Missouri in its only competition against a ranked opponent. Alcorn State's troubles begin on the offensive end where it is producing just 59 points per game on 38.7 percent shooting from the floor. Its opponents are netting 69.7 ppg with a .407 field goal percentage.
Jim Boeheim's Orange dropped to 10-1 on Dec. 22 when they suffered an 83-79 setback to Temple at Madison Square Garden. The defeat came after Syracuse's 10-0 start that consisted of eight double-digit margin victories and a perfect 8-0 record at the Carrier Dome. The Orange showed they were susceptible to an upset prior to the Owls as they barely held off Detroit (72-68) in their last home game. Despite the lack of dominance in its last two appearances, Syracuse is a proven force that carries impressive averages of 83 points, 44.2 rebounds, and 17.8 assists per contest. Its opponents are not coming close with 60.1 points, 35.7 boards, and 13 helpers per outing.
This marks the second meeting between these two schools. Syracuse defeated Alcorn State, 110-77, on Dec. 3, 1982 in the only other matchup between the squads.
Alcorn State received a boost recently as senior guard Marquiz Baker scored 23 points in his long awaited season debut on Dec. 21 versus Santa Clara. Baker then netted 24 points versus SMU before tallying 30 points against the Golden Griffins on Thursday. The other two components of the Braves' backcourt are also capable of filling it up. Anthony Nieves (11.8 ppg) added 20 points on 7- of-15 shooting from the floor in Thursday's loss to Canisius, and although LeAntwan Luckett (11.4 ppg, 2.4 apg) was held in single digits for the second consecutive outing, he made his mark by dishing out seven assists. The Braves, who are hitting only 27.9 percent from beyond the arc, need to find their outside shooting touch in this one to make up for their lack of low post scorers.
The Orange have an array of weapons which makes them nearly impossible to defend. The team is being guided by the top-notch play of sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who is averaging a double-double with 12.4 points and a Division I leading 10.3 assists per game. However, the 6-6 floor general had his streak of five consecutive double-doubles snapped versus Temple and he is just 4-of-23 from the field, including a 1-of-9 mark from 3-point range, in his last two games. Senior forward James Southerland is netting a team-best 15 ppg thanks to his 26 makes from beyond the arc while Brandon Triche (14.7 ppg) and C.J. Fair (12.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are doing their part from the forward slots.